Sunday, March 25, 2007

ZenTiger The middle class ate my homework

Chris Trotter blames the middle class in this week's Sunday Star Times. His homework was to write an intelligent article on the NCEA debacle. He failed. If Trotter bores you, the article can be summed "The middle class ate my homework". So much for a state education.

According to Chris, it seems that parents who take a great deal of interest in their children's education can be labeled as possessing "overweening conceit which assures them everybody else is far too stupid to see through their spurious self-serving arguments". This is typical Chris Trotter - he thinks any concern shown by parents as to a lack of faith in the NCEA system indicates the worst, because, naturally, the state and all its bureaucrats always do better than concerned parents.

Chris Trotter then asks a question that only a communist and their socialist wannabes would ever ask:
Has there ever been a more blatant educational "con" than the one which insists that ranking students does anything other than turn an arbitrarily determined number of 15 and 16-year-olds into failures?
And Chris spends the rest of the article pointing out the evils of distinguishing between people that pass a subject and people that fail a subject, as if it is all the fault of the middle class.

But what an interesting concept. No first place at the Olympics. Just line everyone up and give them an "achieved" just for getting there. And as long as they've done their training (as signed off by a highly paid training certification expert) then there's no need to actually compete. As Trotter says: It would only allow the rest of the world to see the [athletes] ranked: from the very best to the very worst; and then very kindly, let's the rest of the world know whether they have "passed" or "failed".

And then Chris goes on to make an astounding assertion:

Ignoring the fact that the NCEA system is strongly supported by employers (for the cogent reason that it tells them what a young job applicants can do as opposed to what they cannot) ...

Actually, the NCEA system is only supported in principle. The rest is spin. Employers agree it could be a good system, but not at the moment. Remember this news article?
NCEA is the only qualification for the vast majority of New Zealand students and for its credibility to fall as reported is a crisis for New Zealand students – particularly those from low income communities.

NCEA credibility has suffered from its inception by –

Educationally based concerns about breaking subjects up into small compartmentalised units for assessment purposes Widely fluctuating results from year to year for the same “standard” Students receiving “bubble gum” credits at level 1 NCEA for picking up litter etc Lack of consistency in NZQA policy on schools reporting “Not Achieved” results The debacle at Cambridge High School NCEA must be seen to be a credible qualification by students, parents and the wider community. However the NZQA survey shows that more than one third of employers say the results are not useful and that different schools have different standards.

This crisis in credibility means that universities, polytechs and employers may begin to take more notice of the school a person attended rather than the NCEA credits they achieved. In other words the “school tie” could take over from NCEA results as a measure of educational value. This would be utterly disastrous and would impact most seriously on students in schools in low income communities who work particularly hard to achieve a NCEA qualifications.
At the end of 2004, the government was reeling from its NCEA debacle. It continued into 2005:
Krystle Barnes was one of the lucky ones. She passed an NCEA scholarship exam and won a place at university. But the 18-year-old says she has been left with something on her CV that employers don't recognise, parents don't understand and no one has any faith in. Krystle is proud of her achievement but is worried she has a qualification that is little more than a political football.
So, what have they done in the last two years? Well, a big propaganda drive. A long campaign to tell everyone that it is all fixed up, and that they've sorted the problems and it's all going to be alright. A big push to assure Business NZ that they are on the right track - which has lead to cautious agreement of the benefits, but I suspect they reserve judgment until they actually see it working. And meanwhile, hacks like Chris Trotter decides it's time to assassinate the character's of all the concerned parents that get to see the operation of the school up close - and judge first hand how their child's education is progressing.

And Chris resorts to the backing of a newly appointed professor of education at Waikato University, Martin Thrupp - who speaks of education's "inconvenient truth - persistent middle-class advantage".

Oh, pu-lease! When academics can only speak in marketing sound-bites, you know the English Language is dead in the Universities. This is unfortunately, a fine example of too much hot air in our educational elite.

The upper class (such as it is in NZ) can buy whatever education they need, and the lower class are entitled to our supposedly quality state funded education that teaches everyone with the same impartiality and effectiveness - but only the middle class have the advantage, because, the students that fail to demonstrate knowledge on the subject will be marked as failures. And that's just not fair!

Chris Trotter sees parents wanting a good education for their children as the evil thought that the economic and social advantages which they enjoy might no longer be so readily transferred to their children. No Chris, the middle class aren't infected with Tall Poppy Syndrome - that's a socialist's disease. They just want their kids to enjoy the benefits of a good education. There's no problem if others also get a good education. Right wingers see competition as a healthy stimulus to drive self-improvement. Good marks are a sign of recognition. Bad marks are an indicator that additional assistance can be targeted towards this person to help them achieve the same results.

Yes Chris, Education is important, and every child in NZ has access to it. Except along the way, the government has decided that it's best not to let on just how the system is failing our children. Which is why it's best not to actually score them against a measurable standard. The failure is not solely on the capability of the child, but of the system.

And what is Trotter's solution? To attack any parents wanting to have a good and quantifiable outcome as self-serving middle class liars and cheats.

NCEA may prove itself in the long run - it's had more versions than Microsoft Windows, and like Windows, the latest NCEA is all about the eye candy too. And I suspect the budget to sort out the NCEA debacle over the last two years would probably fund a small south pacific coup. If this year's results fall in a big heap, I think I could even predict the country.

Meanwhile, Chris Trotter's little report placing the lack of confidence in NCEA as the fault of parents turning to the Cambridge Exams as a conspiracy of the middle class holding onto their middle class advantage of being the ones that actually pay the taxes in this country is regretfully marked "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"

Apparently, such a mark will not affect his job prospects. The government is pleased to be hiring anyone who can read and write at the moment.

1 comment(s):

Andy said...

All Christchurch is encouraged to make the time to attend the Public March To Protest Anti-Smacking Bill.

When? Wednesday 28 March 12pm
Where? Victoria Square (close to Cathedral Square
Speakers: Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick from MoreFM's show Si&Gary, Ali Jones from NewsTalk ZB. has all the information plus a map of where to meet.

This is quite likely the most significant protest march you will ever attend - do not miss it. We must show the Government - who have been ignoring the public - exactly what us Kiwis do think on this crucial issue.

Good parents will be criminalised if Bradford's bill becomes Law.

Make sure that it doesn't by supporting the march!

There will be marches also in Wellington, Nelson and Fielding. has all the information on these marches, plus news updates, polls to vote in, petition forms and info on how to email the MPs.

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